If you’re living single this holiday season, you might be at risk for one of the most common sexual pitfalls — sex with the ex! Let’s face it: Holidays are generally the bane of a single person’s existence. Every activity and party seems to be geared toward lovebirds and families. Loneliness around this time is inevitable, and many single people like to turn to a familiar place for comfort: the arms of an ex. We all have one stuffed in the closet of our lives — whether it is a long-ago love, or a recent breakup, exes always seem to be just a phone call away.
Sex with the ex is appealing for many reasons. For one thing, we feel already feel comfortable with them, both inside and outside the bedroom. A new relationship or hook-up does not have the same guarantee … it is generally awkward, and first-time sex is always a little bumpy. But when having sex with an ex, we know their moves, their likes, their dislikes and they know ours as well — which means the sex is certain to be pleasurable. It often feels like a no-brainer, especially if you remember the sex as being good (regardless of how bad the relationship was)!
However, there are many caveats to consider. Now that the relationship has ended, your ex is free to have sex with as many people as he desires — and who knows if that sex was safe? When monogamy disappears, so does the assurance of safe sex. Thus, even if your ex promises you that he has been celibate since the breakup, you still need to take the same precautions as you would with a perfect stranger.
It is also important to consider the emotional side-effects. Even if you go into the situation determined to remain emotionally distant, sex has a way of breaking those barriers down. Just having sex with the ex can bring back a flood of emotions and memories, and holiday loneliness makes you even more vulnerable to these feelings. Even if you are able to stay emotionally uninvolved, your partner might not be able to. Someone’s feelings are certain to get hurt, especially since breakups are rarely a clean cut on both sides.
Sex with the ex might be fun for a one-time romp, and if you use protection, you should come through unscathed. However, if you make a habit of hooking up with your old flame, you might find yourself getting burned all over again.
Instead of turning to the ex this holiday season, invest your energy into meeting someone new under the mistletoe. Surround yourself with similarly single folks, and have a holiday bash in which couples and kiddies are not allowed. Embrace your single freedom, and have a happy holiday — instead of a potentially drama-filled one!
Laura Berman, LCSW, Ph.D., is the director of the Berman Center, a specialized health care facility in Chicago that's dedicated to helping women repair their sex lives and find relief from menopausal symptoms. Dr. Berman is also an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.